New Zealand Rugby League officials have been forced to scrap plans to launch their own "State of Origin" competition next year.
But chief executive Jim Doyle remains confident the proposed series, which is expected to pit Auckland-born Kiwi players against their international team-mates who hail from outside the country's biggest city, will start in 2014.
Doyle met with officials from the Australian Rugby League Commission in Sydney this week and said there was support for his the idea. But with no windows in next year's league calendar in which to release the players, he has been told it will be 2014 before there is the chance to schedule any Kiwi origin games.
"We are ready for it. But at the moment, while they are working through the broadcast stuff, they have committed for next year to having their own Origin series on Wednesday nights," Doyle said.
"That makes it hard for us to introduce our concept next year. But in saying that, we will look to introduce a junior origin concept in 2013.
"We are still working with them to try and find a window that will allow us to play our origin ... it definitely won't be next year at the senior level. But hopefully in 2014 we will see it happen." Doyle said he had every confidence the New Zealand origin concept would get off the ground in 2014 – a year later than initially hoped – and believes it will provide a clear pathway for players wanting to press claims for New Zealand.
"They [the ARL Commission] are very supportive and very keen because they see the benefit," Doyle added.
"If New Zealand has its own origin concept – and yes it might not generate as much money because it won't get 80,000 people to it – but it will at least get people on a pathway to one country or the other.
"It's just a case of working with them to determine when is the logical time to do it inside the whole NRL calendar."
Trans-Tasman relations have been strained this week over the possible selection in Queensland's Origin team of Auckland-born Sam Kasiano. "We've talked to Sam a few times and we think he's going to stay as a Kiwi. But it will be interesting to see what happens next week [when the Queensland team is named]," Doyle said.
Still, while Kasiano appears to have opted for New Zealand, the fact remains that taking part in Australia's Origin competition is an attractive carrot.
At present, Origin players are paid $A20,000 a game to represent their state and just $A9000 when it comes to playing for their country.
New Zealand players are paid the same as their Kangaroo rivals, but the prospect of Origin match payments rising as high as $A50,000 a game next year when a new broadcast deal is completed by the ARL Commission has many predicting the end of tests.
But Doyle said one promising option that had been discussed this week proposes all rep football payments, regardless of whether the contest is Origin or a test match, be the same. "Logically, if you are an Australian Origin player, you are one of 36," he said. "If you are a Kangaroo, you are one of 18 and you've reached your peak. Therefore, you should get more money.
"But the commercial reality is that when you play Origin and get 80,000 people, there's a lot more income for that than for Australian games.
"But if the broadcasters and Commission group one lump sum together for representative football, rather than have it separated for Origin and test matches, there might be the chance to make that [equal payments] happen."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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